Clouded issues over ‘gold-plated jobs for the boys club’

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QUESTIONS surrounding funding arrangements for the country’s most senior police officers have already led to Parliamentary debate and the latest revelations are likely to further increase scrutiny from MPs.

Last month the Yorkshire Post revealed the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), which is also publicly-funded, had paid hundreds of thousands of pounds to consultants – some of whom were former chief officers who had retired and then walked into their new roles with ACPO only days later.

It was revealed ACPO had paid former police chiefs up to £1,100 a day as consultants without being able to detail why the posts were not openly advertised or who had set the pay rates, prompting claims it was operating a “gold-plated jobs for the boys club”.

The revelations surrounding the consultancy payments led to ACPO launching an inquiry and Skipton and Ripon Tory MP Julian Smith calling a Commons debate during which several MPs questioned ACPO’s accountability.

ACPO operates as the chief officers’ professional body, co-ordinating and leading policing strategy across the country. It is publicly-funded but actually constituted as a limited company – a status which has been in question for several years as technically it operates outside the responsibility of the Home Office.

There is a degree of public accountability through ACPO’s requirement to publish annual accounts through Companies House and since last November ACPO has been subject to the Freedom of Information Act. The Chief Police Officers Staff Association (CPOSA) is, however, currently subject to no public reporting requirements at all. It is not constituted as a limited company or a charity and is not required to publish public accounts.

The exact status of CPOSA is not clear but it is clear the police authorities who have provided millions of pounds in public funding since it was formed in 1995 are unlikely to have seen its accounts or known exactly how it has spent the money.

CPOSA vice president David Griffin initially said the Yorkshire Post would be unable to see the organisation’s accounts because they were considered private. He later said the issue was under discussion and the accounts may be disclosed.

At the time of going to press, the accounts had not been made available.

Mr Griffin did indicate CPOSA’s constitution would be made available though a copy has not yet been forwarded. CPOSA does have a formal role representing the interests of chief police officers on the staff side of the Police Negotiating Board which negotiates the terms and conditions of all the country’s police officers.

Police authorities recognise the value of this role but the system and level of payment to CPOSA may well draw further searching questions about how large amounts of public funding are being received and spent by chief officers.